It’s Halloween weekend, and college football is in the air. Unfortunately, the schedule of games is a bit spooky and relatively below average. However, there are a trio of ranked matchups to watch in Week 9 that will be worth your time. Let’s chat about the three highlight games of the weekend, and the 2023 NFL Draft prospects in them.
We start the day off with a huge Big Ten East matchup, when No. 13 Penn State hosts No. 2 Ohio State in Happy Valley. You’ll particularly want to watch this game when Ohio State’s offense is lining up against Penn State’s defense. More on that later.
The mid-afternoon slate presents No. 9 Oklahoma State traveling to No. 22 Kansas State in what could determine who makes the Big 12 Championship game. Both teams are very banged up, including a multitude of Cowboys who have gone down in recent weeks, while Kansas State could be down to their third-string quarterback. This specific game has a huge range of outcomes due to the injury bug.
No. 3 Tennessee—one of the hottest teams in the sport—takes part in yet another ranked matchup. No. 19 Kentucky and their vaunted defense comes to town to try and tame the Volunteers’ explosive offense. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops will probably try to run the offense in a way that keeps the game close despite having a likely first-round quarterback in Will Levis at the helm.
With the games laid out on the table, let’s talk prospect matchups to keep an eye on this weekend.
Ohio State at Penn State — NFL Draft prospects to watch
- Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
- Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
- Julian Fleming, WR, Ohio State
We talked about Iowa’s defensive backs against Ohio State’s receiver talent last week. But this is a bit of a step up in the caliber of player. Porter Jr. is a legitimate first-round cornerback prospect, with NFL bloodlines and all of the traits one can hope for. He’s 6’2” and 195 pounds with quite a bit of tenacity as a press-man corner.
Brown is a player who caps the defense for the Nittany Lions and has a ton of ball production (nine interceptions over the last two seasons). Possessing a unique build (5’11” and 220 pounds), he has no issues sticking his nose in to run fits to take down opposing running backs.
Smith-Njigba remains a question mark this week despite getting a marginal bit of playing time in Week 8. Fleming has been a big-play machine for the Buckeyes, and has taken advantage of Smith-Njigba’s missed time this season.
Sophomores Emeke Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. are also legitimate NFL Draft prospects, but are not eligible in 2023.
Oklahoma at Iowa State — NFL Draft prospects to watch
- Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
- Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
This is a matchup of two of the best trench athletes in the country on Saturday. Harrison and McDonald IV possess some freaky traits for their respective positions.
Harrison has been dominant this year for the Sooners in the run and pass game. He’s an easy projection to left tackle at the next level for his athleticism and his ability to quickly get to the apex. He will need to show that athleticism off on Saturday against McDonald IV.
McDonald IV is one of the most dangerous pure pass rushers in the country for his ability to press the outside shoulder of offensive tackles. His dip-and-rip ability is impressive, but he tends to get himself into less than ideal situations with out-of-control rush lanes, and too much exuberance in seeking to put ineffective spin moves on opposing offensive linemen. McDonald IV also currently doesn’t have the upper body strength to hold up on a play-to-play basis against the run.
It’s not a highly-anticipated matchup between these teams, but the prospect matchup is worth the price of admission.
Just getting into tape on 2023 EDGE class but can’t be many rushers as instinctive, skilled, & productive (29.0 career sacks) as @CycloneFB DE Will McDonald IV. @WILL_JUN1OR consistently wins with shake & hands. Also has strip knack (5 FF last year).#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/yO6cEtLivt— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) May 14, 2022
Notre Dame at Syracuse — NFL Draft prospects to watch
- Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
- Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
Bergeron held his own against Clemson’s elite edge rush talent last week, where he and top prospect Myles Murphy went toe-to-toe for four quarters—both of them exchanging blows in the process. Bergeron showed well enough to prove his rise to a possible early second-day selection is not a fluke. This coming Saturday, all eyes will be on how Bergeron handles yet another possible first-round selection in Foskey.
Foskey has had a wonderful season, and just came off a three-sack, two punt block performance last weekend. Foskey has been a mainstay in our preview articles, and now gets to put more reps on tape against NFL-caliber offensive line talent.
Trench matchups are all the rage in Week 9.
The good news is there are a lot of good OL in rd1 in 2023: Jaelyn Duncan, Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson, Andrew Vorhees. I also really like Syracuse LT Matthew Bergeron. Mocked late 1st/early 2nd but should rise. Good feet, strong punch, grip strength, lateral agility #Bears pic.twitter.com/8GJYIhu7cE— Chicago Football Connection (@CFCBears) October 14, 2022
Game of the Week
(2) Ohio State at (13) Penn State
Saturday, 12:00 PM Eastern, FOX
We have already touched on some of the more important matchups in this game, but that’s not the full extent of the story on this game. Ohio State and Penn State are both loaded with prospects to watch on both sides of the ball.
When the Buckeyes are on offense, quarterback C.J. Stroud is the big name to know, along with the draft-eligible receivers mentioned above, Smith-Njigba and Fleming. Center Luke Wypler has proven to be a strong commodity in the middle of the Ohio State offensive line in 2022, and tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones are both likely high-profile draft selections in April, as well.
On Penn State’s side, defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher has a huge frame on the interior to try and stymie Ohio State’s run game. Curtis Jacobs is a young, talented linebacker who is 2023 draft eligible. We already talked about the quality in the secondary of Porter Jr. and Brown earlier.
The prospects don’t stop when Penn State’s offense is on the field. Offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu has vaulted his way into the discussion as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft. Juice Scruggs is a name to know at the center position for Penn State. Wide receiver Parker Washington and tight end Theo Johnson are impact players at the skill positions who are eligible to be drafted.
Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison will try to throw things out of wack for the Nittany Lions. Harrison is a former highly-touted recruit who has been playing some of his best football this year. He dominated against Iowa a week ago, and will have a tough test against the Nittany Lions. Defensive tackle Jerron Cage has been a part-time starter for the Buckeyes, but he’s played well and produced when he’s had the opportunity. Cody Simon is a junior who leads the charge at linebacker. Cameron Brown is a senior corner for Ohio State who’s been banged up in recent weeks, but could return Saturday. Safeties Ronnie Hickman, Lathan Ransom, and Josh Proctor are names to know on the back end for the Buckeyes. Jim Knowles loves him some safeties, and Ohio State has three good draft-eligible ones.